Reigning 1500m champion Laura Muir and 100m silver medallist Zharnel Hughes secured two golds for Great Britain on day five of the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships, part of the multi-sport European Championships, on Friday (19) but defending women’s 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith fell just short of adding a third as Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji beat her to the line.
Muir ran a superbly judged race to retain her title and add another gold to the Commonwealth version she won earlier this month and the world silver earned last month. Between them, she and her Scottish compatriot Eilish McColgan, who has earned Commonwealth gold and silver, and European silver and bronze, have had a richly rewarding five weeks.
The 29-year-old Olympic 1500m silver medallist monitored proceedings from the back before moving deliberately to the front with two laps remaining, taking over the lead from Ireland's Ciara Mageean.
Sofia Ennaoui, silver medallist behind Muir at the 2018 European Championships, had remained at the back with the defending champion but only made half a job of following her to the front, getting caught up in the pack.
As she was extricating herself approaching the bell her race was lost as Muir accelerated with sudden and brutal purpose. Mageean, a bronze medallist in Amsterdam six years ago and fourth in Berlin, was ready and gave dogged chase. Ennaoui had missed the party, but set off nevertheless in desperate pursuit.
All around the final bend the Irish runner showed the tenacity that characterised her British coach, Helen Clitheroe, the 2011 European indoor 3000m champion, but inexorably the Olympic silver medallist pulled away.
Muir crossed in 4:01.08 with a gesture that could have been one of triumph or relief. Or maybe just exhaustion. Mageean, who had been at the front throughout, earned a hugely well-deserved silver in 4:02.56, with Ennaoui’s forlorn but gutsy chase earning her bronze in 4:03.59, just ahead of a fast-finishing Katie Snowden, who clocked 4:04.97.
“I tried to control the race and I knew my speed was the best for the last lap,” Muir said. “It’s fantastic to see Ciara running so well. I knew I would have to run well to beat her.”
Mageean said: “You always have to run hard if you're running against Laura Muir. I am too happy to come away with the silver, it's a beautiful night, the Irish flag is raised. There is not a time when I don't think about the gold, it didn't happen today but I am delighted to taking home the silver. It has been a long journey from Amsterdam to this moment, to be on the podium again. It means a lot as it has been a very rocky journey.”
Hughes dominates 200m final; Kambundji upsets Asher-Smith for first European title
Hughes added 200m gold to his 100m silver with an unanswerable final 80 metres which saw him draw away from his compatriot and erstwhile relay comrade Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake to cross in 20.07.
But Mitchell-Blake hung in to take silver in 20.17 ahead of the Italian who beat him to the line in the final leg of the Tokyo 2020 4x100m, Filippo Tortu, who earned bronze in 20.27, preventing what would have been a British clean sweep. Charles Dobson, 22, faded slightly over the final 50 metres to finish fourth in 20.34.
Turkey’s reigning champion Ramil Guliyev, running in lane eight, made a pained and painful exit from the race as he turned into the straight.
“I knew that I was faster than the other guys on the track because of my fast 100m,” Hughes said. “I really did the damage on the bend, I really dominated on it. As soon as I crossed the finish line I knew that I had won because I didn't see anyone else there. I am really happy with the European title, as well as with the silver for Nethaneel.”
Kambundji, beaten to gold in the women’s 100m on Tuesday by just five thousandths of a second, was certainly due a change of luck at these championships, where four years ago she finished fourth in the 100, 200 and 4x100m.
Having earned an unexpected world indoor 60m title in March, the 30-year-old Swiss athlete found the way to the top of the podium again after arriving into the home straight slightly behind Asher-Smith, who was clearly set on earning a tangible reward from these championships after dropping out of contention while defending her 100m title with a calf strain she ascribed to having her period.
The Swiss runner earned a metre clearance, and nothing the Briton could do altered it. Kambundji won in 22.32 with Asher-Smith, whose world and Commonwealth campaigns yielded no rewards, earning her first big medal of the year in 22.43.
Bronze went to Denmark’s Ida Karstoft, who clocked 22.72 to finish ahead of Britain’s Jodie Williams, who finished in 22.85.
Meanwhile a rather disconsolate Asher-Smith added: “This is OK. Obviously, I came here to win, and definitely in shape to win - so, I'm not super happy, but at the same time, this was an amazing race."
In contrast, the bronze medallist was on cloud nine. “I'm speechless, I'm so happy,” said Karstoft. “I didn't think it was possible in my first final, my first European Championships and now I am here with the bronze. It's amazing! I am so proud of myself, the year with the injuries and now it has been like a dream.”
Full results here.